Cal rugby hosts doubleheader against Arizona State, Cal Poly

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Phillip Downey/File

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Even rain won’t be able to ruin the Cal rugby team’s parade this spring. On what should be a sunny Saturday afternoon, the undefeated Bears will participate in a marquee doubleheader against two Division I teams – Arizona State and Cal Poly.

At 9-0, Cal will be returning home to Witter Rugby Field for a four-game home stand after a whopping 87-0 victory over Cal Maritime and a 65-21 win over Santa Clara.

While the Bears were able to handily defeat Cal Maritime and Santa Clara with lineups largely consisting of freshmen and sophomores, this weekend’s matchups pose a stronger threat to the team’s unblemished record.

Oftentimes when the Bears play a doubleheader, one opponent stands no chance against Cal’s normal lineup, and a team of underclassmen and reserves will handle that match. Cal head coach Jack Clark will have to consider his options regarding roster management for both games, neither of which should be a roll-over.

“Well, the makeup of this weekend’s teams will be largely different than those teams from last weekend,” Clark said. “Most likely, we’ll split our most proven players into the two teams and then fill in the remaining spots with those players who are most deserving of a starting position.”

Although this strategy has not been employed this season, it may prove to be extremely effective for the Bears. The right combination of youthful promise and experienced talent may provide an exciting spark for the team. In addition, it will give young Cal team members the perfect opportunity to learn from their older teammates as they prepare to become team leaders in the coming years.

Once again, Cal will be led by its superb trio of fifth-year stars, flyhalf Russell Webb and centers Patrick Barrientes and Anthony Salaber. What is probably the best backline core in the nation will be looked upon to provide strong defensive support, which will allow forwards to attack freely and often.

Emerging playmakers on the team include sophomore prop Peter Sekona, freshman wing Sam Cusano, and freshman center Christian Dyer. All three players have been seeing increased time on the field and have made the most of it, establishing themselves as key contributors.

“We’re still going to try to play Cal (style) rugby,” Clark said. “We’ve put in a couple new wrinkles, which is what we like to do at this point in the season. We’re able to add to our options of ploys and set plays as we try to keep expanding on the accuracy of our game.”

Last weekend against Santa Clara, the Bears found themselves in a tight 20-11 game at the end of the first half. Cal then proved its ability to make adjustments and execute against solid teams, as the team scored 45 points in the second period, roaring to a 65-21 final score.

This weekend, however, it is crucial that the team jumps out to a hot start and continues to apply pressure on its opponents, which will allow them to run the games according to their preferred pace. The Bear’s opponents are too talented to let Cal cover up any early mistakes, so Clark’s mix-and-match lineups will have to be up to the task.

Nikhil Bhumralkar covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].